A Russian ice cream brand is being accused of promoting "gay propaganda."
In a recent conference call with President Vladimir Putin, Ekaterina Lakhova, a politician in the Eastern European nation, suggested the company Chistaya Liniya violated a law against promoting "homosexual behavior among minors" with its Rainbow ice cream.
"They're quietly promoting these nice rainbow colors, using nice words, they're advertising an ice cream called Rainbow," Lakhova, chair of Russia's Union of Women, said on the call, reported the BBC.
Lakhova warned Putin that the imagery might lead young people toward having positive feelings toward the rainbow flag, the symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.
In a separate interview, Lakhova compared the queer banner to the fascist flag of Nazi Germany. "I don't like the rainbow, just as I don't like the swastika," Lakhova said.
Putin did not dismiss Lakhova's concerns over the rainbow branding. "If there are reasons to believe that this is propaganda for values that are not traditional to us, then… it must be managed by society, but not aggressively," said the president. In the meeting, Putin also criticized the U.S. embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag during Pride month, joking that the act says "something about those who work there."
Armen Beniaminov, vice president of Chistaya Liniya, denied that Rainbow ice cream is gay propaganda, a crime that comes with a fine of up to 500,000 roubles. The 2013 law bans any positive mention of LGBTQ+ issues through means accessible to minors.
"Our company advocates traditional family relations, and categorically disagrees with Ms. Lakhova. We believe that the rainbow is sunlight after the rain, not the LGBT flag," said Beniaminov.
As proof of his support of "traditional values," Beniaminov said he had voted to support a recent referendum enshrining marriage as between one man and one woman in Russia. The marriage decision was one of dozens of constitutional amendendments packaged in the referendum, which also lengthened Putin's presidential term limit to 2036.
Putin has long used homophobia for political gain. A recent government-created ad exploited fears of gay adoption to drive voter support for the referendum expanding his presidential powers. The country has also turned a blind eye to the LGBTQ+ concentration camps and abuses in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian state, the terrors of which were captured in a new HBO documentary by David France, Welcome to Chechnya.